Nestled up against Khao Sok is a primordial landscape unknown to most western travellers: Khlong Phanom National Park. It is overshadowed at every turn by its larger neighbor and nearby Khao Sok Lake. However, Khlong Phanom National Park is rich in natural wonders and opportunities for a Thailand forest tour! In this blog we’ll look at what the intrepid traveler can find in this unexplored section of Thailand jungle!
Sometimes spelt Klong Phanom or Klongphanom, the park is just a couple of kilometres down highway 401 from Khao Sok. Khlong Panom National Park covers just over 400 square kilometers. Most visitors to Khao Sok have seen the park without knowing it. The soaring vertical cliffs of Khlong Phanom can be seen from the road off to the west, and make up some of the most dramatic scenery on the way to Khao Sok Lake.
Thailand jungle plants in Khlong Phanom National Park
Most of the park is taken up by striking, knife-edged karst cliffs. While these cliffs make exploring the park more difficult, they have the added bonus of isolating this Thailand jungle environment from external threats. Additionally, they provide excellent habitat for some incredible plant species! Orchids and Lianas thrive here, and the cliff faces are vertical forests, and hosts to rare endemic palms. One of the most famous Khlong Phanom plant species is the Mai Pai Chiang Ruun. This is the largest species of bamboo in Thailand, and one of the largest species in the world! A little while ago, we created a Thailand forest tour to a grove of this giant bamboo. It remains one of our favourite treks in the Thailand jungle, and you can read all about it here.
Another famous Thailand jungle plant that can be found in Khlong Phanom National Park is the Rafflesia Kerrii. Unlike others in Khao Sok, this site is unknown to visitors and easy to reach with a Thailand forest tour. A pickup truck is helpful to take guests high into this hills above the local Soi Tham Peung street. After this a short, steep hike will lead to the blooms! This is an interesting hike. There are few spectacular views, but some great off-trail sections, and in-your-face hill climbs.
While cliffs protect large parts of the park from development and heavy foot traffic, some areas of Khlong Phanom National Park are unfortunately suffering. For example the southern side of the park is completely un-touristed. As a result, this area suffers from heavy deforestation and encroachment from palm plantations. We hope that educating guests about the beauty of the park will help provide some funds to protect this beautiful section of Thailand jungle.
Exploring Klong Phanom with a Thailand forest tour
On The River
Although Khlong Phanom National Park is small, it has a lot to offer to the intrepid visitor! One of the most accessible means of seeing the park is by river, with a canoe trip that begins at the Wat Tham Wararam cave temple. This Thailand forest tour begins at the temple, and visitors enjoy a cool walk through the cave to the river. Guests then have the chance to feed a very energetic school of wild fish that live among the rocks, before hopping in their canoes and relaxing on the water! Brightly-coloured birds dart overhead, and monkeys play in the trees as the canoes follow the river through Khlong Phanom National Park.
In addition to a standard canoe trip, Khao Sok Riverside Cottages offers a special canoe and trekking activity. This Thailand forest tour combines a canoe trip and hike through Thailand jungle, both in Khlong Phanom. The canoe trip explores seldom-visited areas of the Sok River, and the hike leads guests to the 65-million-year-old “Tam Gao” cave. This cave was once inhabited by indigenous mountain tribes, and has preserved evidence of the ancient rituals they practiced.
Finally, there is the option of river tubing! This is a great way to get up close and personal with Khlong Phanom National Park. This tubing trip begins at kilometre 92, and covers some pretty exciting stretches of river. As a result this activity is only possible with a guide – one wouldn’t want to get lost in the jungle!
In the jungle
Getting away from the river and into the Thailand jungle, Khlong Phanom National Park still presents options for adventurers, and there are several different hiking destinations within the park. As a result of the rugged terrain, treks are here moderate at best. All treks in Khlong Phanom will require the services of a guide, and may necessitate hiring a park ranger too. There are no well-maintained paths in Khlong Phanom, and no signage in the forest.
One Thailand forest tour destination in the park is the Khao Wong camp. This site was used in the 1960s and 70s as a hideout for communist rebels! Guests will leave the park headquarters, and pass the Khao Wong waterfall. Eventually they will find a grassy meadow and fruit trees such as jackfruit, guava and lime. These are evidence of the areas previously used by human inhabitants. Walking downstream, guests can enter a huge cave: another former communist hideout.
In addition to recent history, guests on a Thailand forest tour in Khlong Phanom National Park can view neolithic cave paintings! This is one of the most demanding hikes around Khao Sok, and guests interested can be assured of a unique, and difficult trek!
It is worth nothing that hiking in Khlong Phanom can be heavily impacted by rain. Karst cliff faces channel rain water to the ground, and all this water can accumulate to flood the lush Thailand jungle! These flooded forests are absolutely magical to explore, however, as long as you don’t mind a bit of water!